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Woman visiting Durango reunited with family heirloom 48 years later

Trunk found at thrift store holds childhood memories
Colleen and Mike Fearney of Florida on Wednesday with the chest that belonged to her father that they found at the Methodist Thrift Store in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

In an odd stroke of happenstance, a Florida couple visiting their daughter and granddaughter in Durango on May 6 were reunited with an old family heirloom that had been sold 48 years ago in a garage sale in Ohio.

Just two months after Colleen and Mike Fearney married in December 1973, Colleen’s father James Ginley died. Her mother couldn’t manage the house they owned together in Bellefountaine, Ohio, so she sold it. She held a number of garage sales and gave away belongings, including an old navy green Army trunk that had belonged to her father.

Nearly five decades later, the couple was visiting Colleen’s daughter in Durango when they decided to stop by the United Methodist Thrift Shop at 986 East Second Ave. to pick up some sweatpants for Mike.

Mike was standing in line when he looked down and spotted an old trunk lying on the floor. He thought nothing of it at first, but then he noticed the name on one side of the trunk: “James F. Ginley.” The name of his late father-in-law.

“Look at that,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, recounting the episode.

“It’s dad,” Colleen said.

Colleen and Mike Fearney of Florida were visiting their daughter and granddaughter in Durango on May 6 when they decided to visit the United Methodist Thrift Shop. Inside, they were surprised to discover an old trunk that had belonged to Colleen’s father before he died about 48 years ago. On Wednesday, they showed off the trunk during an interview with The Durango Herald. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Ginley was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and, according to Colleen’s and Mike’s best recollection, he entered into service in 1941 and was discharged in 1945. For much of his deployment, he was stationed in the Philippines, where he was in charge of U.S. Army Signal Corps communications and oversaw a telephone operation there.

The serial number, also painted onto the trunk, 0-1635934, matched Ginley’s dog tags, which Colleen’s brother keeps. A sticker from a train trip is slapped to the back of the trunk and is addressed to Colleen’s grandfather, she said.

Colleen said she used to play with the trunk and all the things her father stored inside it when she was a child: an Army mess kit, a canteen, a flashlight and a sleeping bag.

She contacted her siblings to tell them about her find, but only her younger sister could recall the trunk that had been absent from the family for 48 years.

“I remember it very clearly,” Colleen said. “It doesn’t look much different than it did then. Someone’s taken pretty good care of it in its travels.”

Mike and Colleen asked the people working the register how long the trunk had been there and were surprised to learn that it had been donated the day before the couple visited the thrift store.

The trunk had a price tag of $45, but the thrift store offered to let Colleen reunite with the trunk free of charge. Mike said no to that and offered $50 for the trunk.

What became of the trunk? One could say it’s gone full circle. Colleen and Mike plan to keep it in their living room in Florida stuffed with their grandkids’ toys, Mike said.

Colleen, left, and Mike Fearney with an old family heirloom they found on May 6 in a Durango thrift store. They were visiting their family in Durango when they discovered an old United States Army trunk belonging to Colleen’s late father, James Ginley, that her mother had given away 48 years ago in a garage sale after James’ death. The trunk had been donated to the United Methodist Thrift Shop one day before the couple passed through town, Mike said. (Courtesy of Mike and Colleen Fearney)

Lynn Wynn, who works at the United Methodist Thrift Shop, said money raised at the store is kept local to benefit the community.

“We have a voucher system for many of the social agencies in town,” she said. “They can get like $15 worth of stuff. They go straight to the back, and (United Methodist Thrift Store) gives them garbage bags full of stuff. They can do a voucher every six months or so.”

Georgia Stilwell, thrift store director, said the store’s main goal is to keep items priced low in its bid to serve the community. She added their voucher program is offered through Manna soup kitchen.

The thrift store works with and gives monetary and in-kind donations, such as clothing, to local businesses and individuals in need.

“Really, it’s just to continue to try and be a service to the community,” Stilwell said.

She said the Fearneys’ reunion with Colleen’s family trunk is “wild” and said she wishes she had collected the donor’s contact information.

Colleen said she is interested in speaking with whoever gave the trunk to United Methodist Thrift Shop, but she doesn’t know how to get in touch with that individual.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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